Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tiny Tim and Nick Lucas

Watch the videos below of "Tip-Toe Through The Tulips," written in 1926 by Joe Burke and Al Dubin.

I prefer Nick Lucas's version, though of course, it's overwrought. He's playing there in 1929 for the musical picture "Gold Diggers of Broadway," and that rendition might have made his career. I didn't know this until I read his biography, but Nick Lucas was a pioneer of jazz guitar. Listen to his 1922 version of "Teasing the Frets" and compare it to Eddie Lang accompanying Bix Beiderbecke and Frankie Trumbauer in their presciently modern 1927 version of "Singing the Blues." You might draw a lot of parallels.

Lucas changed to the guitar at a time when banjo and ukulele were the mainstays of rhythmic accompaniment, which puts Tiny Tim in perspective a bit as an atavistic entertainer. With all his wispy, androgynous perversity, in "Tip-Toe Through the Tulips," Tiny Tim provides us with some meta-commentary on American culture. The lascivious body movements, the fluttery eyes, the meaningless, self-conscious persiflage--this might add up to some co-opted, hippy version of vaudeville.

Perhaps he didn't know he was doing this. But anyone who goes to the New York Public Library in search of antebellum American folk songs, as he did, probably has more on his mind than dying his hair red. Or perhaps not. Take a look at this interview-- decide for yourself.

Nick Lucas and Tiny Tim happened to be friendly, at least on TV. In 1969, Nick performed "Tip-Toe Through the Tulips" on the Tonight Show when Johnny Carson hosted Tiny's marriage to Miss Vicky. He was 40. She was 17.

Which version do you prefer? I won't blame you if you say neither.


  1. I like that Tiny Tim envisions Satan as a beautiful prince that looks like Fabio. Interesting article!

  2. Thanks, Kaitlin. I guess there are some things to like about Tiny Tim, after all.